“Stalcup Smoothie” Recipe

Every morning, my family has a delicious, nutrition-packed smoothie for breakfast. Here’s the recipe, followed by some notes on why we include each ingredient:

Stalcup Mega Smoothie

A delicious and healthy way to start the day

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups soy milk
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup oats (uncooked)
  • 1 handful or cup kale
  • 1 handful or cup spinach/other green
  • 2 tbsp flax seed
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter powder/peanut butter
  • 1 tsp amla (ground gooseberry)
  • 1.5 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Instructions
 

  • Blend all ingredients at maximum power for 60+ seconds
  • Makes 48 oz (two large smoothies)

We blend and pour two 20 oz. smoothies (me and my wife), one 8 oz smoothie (toddler), and a couple tablespoons mixed with a little baby oatmeal into a bowl (baby).

Ingredients

Here’s why each ingredient is important:

  • Soy milk – My favorite plant-based milk thanks to the added protein. Go with unsweetened if possible to minimize sugar.
  • Water – Gives additional volume; you could substitute another liquid, but this keeps the price lower. Hydrating in the morning feels great.
  • Banana – Keeps the texture smooth and creamy.
  • Frozen Blueberries – Berries serve as the main flavor of the smoothie. They add tons of fiber, antioxidants, and nutritional benefits.
  • Mixed Berries – Adds some other flavor notes beyond blueberries, with similar benefits. Look for berry mixes that have blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries but not strawberries, as strawberries are slightly less nutrient- and flavor-dense.
  • Oats – Gets some whole grains in the smoothie and adds some mellow oat flavor. Thickens the texture a little bit. Oats are cheap, yummy, and very good for you.
  • Kale – Both a leafy green and a cruciferous vegetable, kale is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It boosts immune function, lowers cholesterol, and more. Flavor is unnoticeable when blended with berries.
  • Spinach/Greens – We’ve found 2+ cups/handfuls of greens have no impact on smoothie flavor. We do one handful of kale and one handful of another green in the fridge, usually spinach. Greens have tons of documented health benefits, including cancer prevention.
  • Flax seed – Another one of the healthiest foods. Packed with omega 3’s and fiber. Good blenders can handle whole seeds, but we use pre-ground flax seed which is just as cheap and can be used in baking too.
  • Peanut butter powder – We used to use peanut butter, but peanut butter powder trims the fat, has great shelf life, and is easier to measure and pour than the butter. Adds great flavor.
  • Amla – This ground, dried, low-flavor berry is the most antioxidant food (28x more than blueberries, 230x more than Cheerios), with tons of health benefits.
  • Turmeric – Not to sound like a broken record, but turmeric is one of the most healthful foods in the world. It’s also mellow enough (compared to spices like cloves, pepper, cinnamon, etc.) to not have an impact on flavor at 1.5 tsp.
  • Black pepper – A potent spice, but at 1/8 tsp, you’re unlikely to notice it. Included because it improves effectiveness of turmeric, even in tiny quantities.
  • Cinnamon – Adds just a little bit of kick to the smoothie, plus anti-inflammatory benefits.

The end result is a thick, mlikshake-like berry smoothie packed with flavor. But it’s also filled with nutrition: fiber, vitamins, minerals, complex carbs, protein, antioxidants, etc.

Preparation

It takes about 10 minutes to measure out all of the ingredients, blend, and pour. But we’ve figured out how to speed that up by creating “smoothie packs” – containers with all non-liquid ingredients pre-measured – that we just toss into a blender with liquid. We freeze the packs and they last as long as we need without worry of the greens going bad.

Assembling the smoothie packs takes 20-30 minutes per batch that lasts 2-3 weeks, but then it only takes a minute or two to prep in the morning. Packs fit in medium-large plastic containers (48 oz.) or gallon Ziploc bags.

Introducing Carbon Radio: A Herndon-Based Sustainability Channel

During the 2018 Herndon Town Council election season, I met candidate Joe Plummer, a young member of the Herndon Sustainability Committee running a campaign centered on environmental and economic sustainability.

Joe excited and challenged me: Though I’m the son of EPA administrator and am pro-green policy, I had never really considered how local and neighborhood government could really have an impact on the environment. I was excited to endorse and vote for Joe, but he fell short by fewer than 25 votes.

In the months since then, I’ve become friends with Joe and had several great conversations with him about how we can care for the planet, the importance of local activism, and the power (and challenge) of communicating big, complex ideas.

Carbon Radio: “Digital Media Brand for the Planet”

Since last fall, Joe has found a new outlet for his passion for sustainability: A YouTube channel called Carbon Radio, with Herndon as its home base. Joe has interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs and politicians about various environmental issues. For example, he recently spoke with Virginia Delegate Jeff Bourne about our state’s future in energy:

Carbon Radio has also given a platform to some non-political forward-thinkers, like GreenFare’s Gwyn Whitaker. Here she talks about the transformative power of plant-based diets:

Carbon Radio is quickly growing and releasing great new content. Topics range all over the spectrum of planet-focused and sustainability topics, from ecotourism to architecture to politics, and more.

Here’s a fascinating one from Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm defining how he measures the success of his farm:

The Importance of Educating Ourselves

I’m sharing Joe’s channel with you today not just because he’s a good guy with a great mission, but because I firmly believe that all responsible American citizens have a duty to educate themselves on environmental issues.

Look at headlines from the past few months alone:

Clearly, sustainability issues aren’t going away. In fact, I expect them to become more and more prominent in the next several years. I’m still figuring out exactly which policies and politicians I support, but in the meantime I’m glad to have resources like Carbon Radio to give me a ground-floor view of the cutting edge.

Please consider subscribing to Carbon Radio’s YouTube channel and following on Facebook!

How I Read 63 Books in a Year Without Really Trying

Since 2013, I’ve made a goal every year to read 52 books. I’ve always struggled to hit the goal.

But in 2017, I not only hit the goal, I surpassed it. Without really trying.

It’s not like 2017 was a quiet year. I transitioned to a new job, refinanced my house…. oh, and had my first kid.

Here are the steps I took to drastically up my reading consumption without putting in a lot of extra effort:

Recognize that reading books is important

It sounds basic, but it’s important: You need to value reading before you can read a lot. Otherwise, you’ll just find ways not to.

This article isn’t about why reading is important, but let me give you the short version: Significant evidence links reading to improved mental health and happiness.

Non-fiction teaches you how to do stuff, how stuff works, and what happened. Fiction connects ideas and themes by engaging our innate desire for narrative. Both fiction and non-fiction are important for improving your thinking, and both can be a whole lot of fun.

To quote A Dance With Dragons: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”

Find your no-hands times, and fill them with audiobooks

The big breakthrough to my book count in 2017 actually came from trying to make the best of a bad situation: A new, long commute. I found myself stuck with 90-120 minutes a day by myself. No free fingers to poke devices.

I started listening to audiobooks. I realized how enriched and focused I felt when I did this. I figured out how to make the most of listening, and decided to do it all the time.

Then, I started finding other quiet times when I was “stuck” in one place with no free hands: cleaning dishes, holding a sleeping baby, folding laundry, riding a stationary bike at the gym, etc.

Of course, there’s no need to be zealous. Enjoy the quiet. Listen to Tchaikovsky. Talk to people. But make your default be listening to books.

(Semantic clarification: Yes, listening to audiobooks counts as “reading.” So call it reading. Treat the books as if you read them on paper or e-ink. My friend who’s a librarian says there are studies showing your brain processes print and narration the same way. I haven’t read the studies myself, but librarians never lie.)

Cut back on podcasts

Previously, I’d fill time by turning on podcasts. I had a half dozen weekly podcasts on rotation.

I’ve consciously decided to cut out podcasts. There’s so much great content out there, but I find better return on time investment when I listen to audiobooks.

Again, no need to get zealous. Some mornings I just want to listen to unscripted chatter. There are a few shows I need to keep up with. But listening time is scarce and precious, so I defer to books.

Turn up the speed

Every audiobook app I use has the ability to listen to books at higher speeds than they were recorded. I highly recommend you take advantage of this.

I typically go for 1.75x. Sometimes I’ll bump down to 1.5x or up to 2.0x. I’ve experimented 2.5x. (Not for rookies.)

You get through books so much faster. A 14-hour book suddenly becomes 7 hours — less than a week’s worth of commutes!

This takes some getting used to. Brains aren’t used to hearing voices at that speed. Ease yourself in: Start with 1.25x, then try 1.5x, then 1.75x. Once you’re used to it, anything slower than 1.5x will sound the DMV in Zootopia.

Find your sources

It shouldn’t be hard for you to get a book to listen to. I recommend three sources, and regularly use the app for each:

  • Overdrive/Libby: My public library lets me borrow audiobooks for free. Yours probably does too. Overdrive (often via the Libby app) is the most popular provider, and takes two minutes to set up if you have a library card. The selection isn’t outstanding, so it’s better to approach Overdrive when you are open-minded about selection. I typically browse currently available books, sorted by popularity. Overdrive is not great for when you have specific books in mind. For those must-reads, I suggest…
  • Audible: They make it super easy to find, buy, and listen to audiobooks. Their selection is the best in the world. They even have the incredible “Whispersync” feature, which my wife adores: Your audiobook and Kindle book will stay in sync as you read and listen. Of course, there is a catch: It ain’t cheap. $15 / month gets you one book credit. I go for $23 / month for two credits. (Rates are lower if you pre-pay for the year. You can buy extra credits, and you can save credits you don’t use.) To me, the value of Audible surpasses its price.
  • Librivox: Public domain recordings of public domain books. These are almost all classics of fiction made by amateur enthusiasts. As such, the quality is hit-or-miss. But it’s free and gets the job done for classics.

Pick the right type of books for listening

Now that I’ve listened to 75 or so audiobooks since I started my commute, I have an approximate hierarchy, in descending order, of which types of books make good high-speed commute listens:

  • Fiction: Full cast recordings (like The Golden Compass)
  • Anything read by its author (like Brain Rules)
  • Non-Fiction: Idea books (like Freakonomics)
  • Non-Fiction: History books (like Alexander Hamilton)
  • Fiction: Plot-heavy books (like Senlin Ascends)
  • Fiction: Internal monologue-heavy books (like Go Tell It on the Mountain)
  • Fiction: Dialogue-heavy books (like Eleanor and Park)
  • Non-Fiction: How-to books (like Clean Code)

This ranking should be pretty intuitive, but here’s a summary: Books with full casts or the author’s voice have a ton of personality. Non-fiction books that break down easily into main ideas and key events work great for sped-up listening. Fiction can be spottier, but if there’s less need for voice (especially multiple distinct voices), the hit rate is higher. And anything with code, diagrams, or step-by-step instructions are usually a tough fit.

Accept that you’ll miss some details and sensory delight

It’s so easy to zone out for a few seconds here or there when listening. I try not to rewind: Few books lose much value if you skip a few sentences. This makes it much easier to power through audiobooks.

It also represents a philosophical shift to book-reading: indiscriminate and consumptive. The more ideas and concepts and stories you engage with, the better.

Sure, pick some to savor. Slow them down to 1x. Heck, by the hardcover. But for the majority, use your hands-free time to tear through them like it’s 2 PM at Chipotle and you skipped breakfast. This is your nourishment, and it’s delicious.

Think about what you read. Talk about it. (Log it, too.)

Books are about engaging with ideas, information, and stories. They’re about learning (even when it doesn’t feel like it). Share these things with your peers and loved ones. Think about what you valued out of what you read and what you didn’t.

I also suggest using Goodreads to track what you read and when. This is how I know how many books I’ve read each year. I also write brief reactions to most of the books I read, and often add on a star-rating out of five.

But that’s optional. If it feels like overhead, skip it. The rating and counting aren’t the point. The ideas and stories are.

Don’t give up your regular reading time!

All of this is a supplement to my “regular” reading time. You know: glass of wine in a recliner; in bed as you doze off; when you want to teach yourself something. About 12 of my 63 books were not audiobooks.

It’s also okay if you don’t have much time to do that. As long as you have fairly regular hands-free time, you can still get through plenty of books.